ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) — High oleic soybeans have been waiting in the wings of American agriculture for five years.
Companies hope 2018 will be their breakthrough year.
Monsanto’s Vistive Gold soybeans will see a full commercial launch next year, after the trait’s long-awaited Chinese import approval came through this summer. Meanwhile, DuPont Pioneer expects farmers to grow its Plenish soybeans on more than 600,000 acres next year. The company is still waiting on EU import approvals, so production must be handled for domestic use only.
Pioneer expects to get EU approval by 2018, and easier and broader access to these specialty beans couldn’t come at a better time, Plenish Product Manager Brian Buckallew told DTN.
“Growers are looking for anything they can do to add value to their operation right now,” he said. “Moving into 2018, we expect low commodity prices will drive more Plenish acres.”
In 2017, farmers who had Plenish contracts with a processor saw premiums ranging from 40 to 60 cents per bushel. That translates to a $20- to $30-per-acre value on soybean fields averaging 50 bushels per acre, Buckallew pointed out.
Pioneer expects its participating processors — ADM, AGP, Bunge, CHS and Perdue Agribusiness — to offer similar premiums in 2018, he added.
Monsanto declined to estimate the premiums Vistive Gold growers might see, as the company had no grower contracts available in 2017 and is still finalizing its list of participating processors for 2018.
Those premiums don’t come free, of course.
Like any specialty crop, high oleic soybeans require strict stewardship and careful identity preservation (IP) tactics to keep them segregated from the commercial soybean stream. Those requirements, such as separate storage bins and tracking trucks, will remain even once high oleic soybeans are fully commercialized, as processors will still require clean shipments, Buckallew noted.
Last year, more than 2,000 farmers grew Plenish soybeans on 600,000 acres. The beans, which are available in the maturity range of Group 2.0 to Group 4.2, were grown in Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Nebraska, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Virginia, with the majority concentrated in the Eastern Corn Belt.
Although Pioneer is still hammering out processor agreements this fall, so far, the majority of its five processors expect acreage to increase in 2018, Buckallew said.
Monsanto was not able to offer acreage estimates for next year, but Soybean Launch Lead Lisa Streck did note that the company will have soybeans ranging from Group 2.6 to Group 4.1 available for planting.
So far, Plenish soybeans are still based on Roundup Ready 1 germplasm. Pending regulatory approvals, the company hopes to offer them with Roundup Ready 2 and Xtend genetics “within the next few years,” Buckallew said. Vistive Gold soybeans are based on the Roundup Ready 2 platform, and the company is targeting 2019 for the addition of the Xtend trait, Streck added.
Buckallew hesitated to put a number on the final market share high oleic soybeans could control in the future, but the United Soybean Board has set an ambitious industry goal of 18 million acres by 2023.
That would translate to 9 billion pounds of high oleic oil in the marketplace, according to USB. The oil’s appeal stems from its lack of trans-fats, lower saturated fat and better shelf stability compared to conventional soybean oil. That makes it an appealing product for the food industry — where trans-fats are being phased out — as well as industrial end users.
Buckallew said the great majority of Plenish oil is currently in use as a food ingredient. For example, Nestle is using it in all its liquid Coffee-mate products in the U.S. A smaller amount goes to restaurants for frying and baking purposes, as well as companies manufacturing industrial products like motor oil and tires, he added.